As expected, the return of Vladimir Putin to the presidency of Russia has come with crackdowns against free speech and association. One of the most worrisome incidents involved an activist who has been jailed for 15 days for the act of just spitting on a picture of Putin during a protest. Dmitry Karuyev, 20, used an interesting defense that he merely sneezed on it.
In the United States, you cannot be criminally charged for burning the flag as an act of free speech but in Russia spitting on a picture of the strongman will land you in jail.
He was charged with breaching the public order when a police officer said that he “deliberately spat at a portrait of Vladimir Putin.” He was described as leading a one-man protest. Now even the last remaining protester is safely in jail so Putin can return to making Russia great again — starting with elevating his image to the level of a sacred Russian icon.
This week also saw a crackdown on gay protesters.
It is hardly surprising to see Russia returning to oppression under Putin. However, free speech as a whole is under attack in the West. Russian civil libertarians are on the front line of fighting to preserve their rights to free speech and association against a man who has boasted about security forces breaking heads and crushing protesters. Perhaps we can hope that the next time Putin finds an ancient vase in his scuba diving, he might find an equally ancient relic of Russian free speech.
Source: Wall Street Journal